U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Guide to Frugal Evaluation for Criminal Justice, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
196 pages
This report attempts to explain evaluation methods, provide guidance to local officials on self-evaluation, and describe "frugal" evaluation methods--approaches to design, measurement, and data collection and analysis that produce useful findings at relatively low cost.
The report recognizes that many individuals are intensely interested in knowing what works in the field of criminal justice policy. This is particularly the case in terms of new directions in policing, a growing focus on community needs, increased collaboration among criminal justice agencies and the community, changes in violence patterns, the evolution of drug problems and responses, the growing use of civil remedies to supplement criminal responses, an enhanced problem-solving focus in law enforcement and other criminal justice agencies, and an increasing recognition of public health dimensions of drugs and violence. The report indicates frugal evaluation methods rests on three main assumptions: (1) the most promising criminal justice policies and actions are flexible, purposive, and collaborative; (2) criminal justice professionals, ranging from those in operations to executive positions, are better able to do their jobs if they understand the basics of evaluation methods and appropriate application of those methods; and (3) in many circumstances, self-evaluation is possible and public agencies, community groups, and other organizations can conduct internal evaluations. Many approaches to evaluation are possible, depending on the type of activity or the program to be evaluated and on the purpose of the evaluation. But whatever evaluation approach is used, three elements are essential; evaluations must be purposive, analytic, and empirical. The problem-solving approach to evaluation is described, as well as its components of scanning, analysis, response, and assessment. Evaluation is also examined in the context of situational crime prevention and its key elements: collect data on a specific crime problem, analyze situational conditions in which a problem exists, study ways to block opportunities for offending, implement the most promising strategies, and monitor results and apply to similar problems. The first chapter of the report looks at evaluation in terms of a series of questions, while the second chapter centers on building a logic model and cites a variety of approaches to working through a program's theory of action. The third chapter discusses evaluation measures, data collection, and sampling. Subsequent chapters deal with the logic of comparison, frugal evaluation principles, and guidance on forming different types of evaluation partnerships. References and exhibits

Date Published: January 1, 2001